The most talked about must-see destination of Vietnam, Halong Bay proved to be the highlight of my visit in the country. A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1994, the bay has about 2,000 limestone islets called 'Karst'. Tourists come from all over the world to experience the day, weekend, or week long tours through the area. Most people prefer staying overnight on a boat or on a beach island in the bay, and doing recreational activities like Swimming, Kayaking, Snorkeling, Caving, and Cooking Classes during the day. As someone who prefers a few hours on the sailboat with my family before returning to land, I knew staying overnight was not an option.
As I was coming from the South, I chose to stop in Cat Ba, Halong Bay's largest island. Remote areas offer limited transportation, so I was up at 6:30am to take a bus from Ninh Binh. It was a suffocating, sardine-packed short bus that kept picking more people up, and finding more places to fit more backpacks. There was no room to breathe, and my skin was on itching fire from the water contamination rash. I was squashed up against the window, with any movement feeling like prickly knives over my body for the grueling 4 hours. Then, took a 45 minute ferry and another 45 minute bus ride across Cat Ba island to reach the main beachside strip. It was a long day nonetheless!
Once I had arrived, I saw a wimpy minimal Karst view along the sea line. It was a peaceful and relaxing atmosphere, so I figured it would be a great place to relax for a few days and catch up on my blog and photos. But, the internet was inexistent everywhere I went, and knew I needed to keep moving. I walked down the strip and found a half-day tour for the next day.
Halong Bay was thrilling and otherwordly, like something out of a movie. Cruising through the pristine waters and limestone karsts, the tiny boat we started with was perfect for hanging out under the (cloudy) sky. My heart was racing with excitement and amazement. Around every corner was more beautiful scenery from the last.
At one point, we passed through a fishing village. At the time, I thought it was a daily shelter where people visited to do their work, and returned to land at night. But, later in my trip, I learned that people actually live on the water! The floating houses were remarkable. I saw dogs running up and down on the planks, and one man in a photo is using a hose!
Halfway through the trip, we transferred to a larger boat. At this point, everything started looking the same, and I realized a nap on sundeck chairs would be more interesting.
The tour included a cooking class and lunch. By this point, I was sea sick and ready to reach land. I was tired from the waves and wind, and slept through the majority of the 4 hour bus ride to Hanoi. Veni Vidi Vici.